Beltania Festival (Florence, Colorado)
Article ID: 15595
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,172
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Author: Michelle Cole
Posted: January 12th. 2014
Times Viewed: 3,856
Sponsored by: Living Earth
Location: Florence, Colorado
Event Date(s): May 2013
Every May in the mountains, over the tiny town of Florence, Colorado, a large group of Witches, Pagans, Druids and every type of Earth Religion based group possible join together in a celebration of Beltane and Community. This amazing, life-changing four day festival is chalk full of Music, Workshops, Rituals and, of course the Maypole.
My husband Doug and I have participated for the past three years and have become more involved each passing year, with 2013 being the best yet! We made the commitment to arrive two days early and help with the preparations. It was fun and exciting to join with the dedicated people who do all they can to ensure all those attending will enjoy their experience; to lend a hand behind the scenes before the real fun commences! Adding to our anticipation last May was the opportunity to bring a young friend.
My oldest friend has a teenage daughter named Zoe, whom I’ve considered my daughter in spirit for as long as she’s drawn breath. I spent the week introducing her as “My daughter who was born through my best friends’ ex-wife!” She has been interested in my kind of spirituality for years now and this was her first Pagan Festival experience; I was so thrilled to be able to share the fun with her! As anyone who has ever attended knows, Beltania is very Family Friendly!
The setting is beautiful, especially when the fog clings to the craggy mountains and evokes a feeling of being in the misty highlands of Scotland. Because it is May, the weather can be unpredictable but while the nights tended to be quite chilly, the days were wonderful. It is not unusual to experience camping with hail, rain, some snow and lots of sun. Welcome to spring camping in Colorado! It is wise to bring light chairs to carry with you; when the chill is in the air you want to be sitting next to one of the Bonfires, mingling and meeting friends old and new. There are a few camping areas to chose from: the Wild Meadow is for 18+ only with bonfires and drumming nightly for as long as anyone is there to tend the fire. There is also a family friendly camping area for the families with children under 18, where the evenings tend to be a bit more on the quiet side. Personally, I absolutely love drifting off to sleep with the sound of drumming gently echoing off the mountains.
While the area invites hiking and relaxing, the main stage is where people gather for the majority of events taking place: music, rituals and the Maypole all take place in what we lovingly refer to as “The Center of the Universe”. Along with simple food fare, there is a Merchants Row where you can find wonderful and unique items related to working Magic, or just for fun. There is also a Silent Auction Booth filled with items people donate to help raise money to fund Beltania. A couple months before Beltania, I injured my back and had time to knit some “Beltania Bunnies” to donate to the cause. (All five went home with attendees!)
Drum circles are spontaneous and frequent, while dancing is not uncommonly accompanied by hoola hoops and glow sticks. The weather has permitted us to enjoy Fire Dancers the past two years while various bands play on stage and the sunsets. Into the night we are entranced by the grace and coordination on display in arcs of flame, with music keeping the energy moving! Denver is fortunate to be home to many talented pagan musical artists and the entertainment list is often long and varied. Beltania also has had the privilege of hosting such world-class entertainers as SJ Tucker and Wendy Rule whom have always been happy to lead workshops and rituals.
Also available to try is the Sweat Lodge and if you have never experienced it I highly recommend it! From my first Beltania I have looked forward to partaking in the Sweat Lodges, however the first two years I found it impossible to work the timing out with the other events I wanted to take part in. 2013 was the year I finally participated in two sweat lodges, made even more meaningful by Zoe’s participation. Not only did she want to experience it with me, she was excited to help build the lodge as well! I had experienced the Sweat Lodge years ago through a friend whose father was Lakota/Ohlone and led sweats and hosted weekly drumming practices. I have missed it deeply and was thrilled to actually build one; I plan on building one myself on my 8 acres one day-hopefully sooner rather than later.
The day we constructed the lodge it was overcast and began to drizzle, eventually turning to rain-but the rain did nothing to detract from the experience. We had to wait to blanket the structure the next day before our first official Sweat. The next morning as our group gathered around the fire warming the rocks we were given an idea of what to expect, and what was expected of us, over the next couple of hours. Then we crawled through the small entrance that forces you to double over, symbolically crawling into and out of the womb of our Great Mother. During a Sweat, there are multiple ‘rounds’, split by small breaks during which you are free to stretch your legs, get fresh air, cool off or answer a call of nature. Once everyone has reconvened in the lodge, new rocks are added and the steam renewed for the next ‘round’. During the rounds prayers are offered, stories shared and songs are sang; we are given the chance to open our minds and hearts among people who are purely supportive.
It is not uncommon to realize as you crawl out for the final time that you really are a different person than when you entered: it is hard to not feel your heart open, even a little, if not a lot during this very intimate and personal experience. It is a place of sacred honesty, of being open, vulnerable and sharing things that are deep and true to your very nature. A place to recognize the sacredness of all things, of all people, of the people sharing the experience with you; it is an honor to take part in such a group experience. Now, Zoe is a bit on the shy side and not given to public speaking or talking to people she doesn’t know. I watched Zoe open up before my eyes, surprised as she spoke of relationships that pose some difficulty for her. I was as proud of her as I have ever been and felt my heart swell with happiness.
I have only experienced one other Pagan Festival experience, many years ago among the Redwoods of Santa Cruz, California, so I can’t honestly compare Beltania to other Festivals but the people who partake and create this experience are so amazing. Even Zoe admitted she had never felt so accepted, so loved, so encouraged to be herself in a group of people; even more amazing that there were no less than 400 people and they are all open, loving, accepting and encouraging.
When Harmony was teaching a group lesson on Fire Dancing, using tennis balls on a rope, I could tell Zoe wanted to partake but was feeling shy. Two men came to my aid and one wisely told her “Take it from me, as a life-long Shy person: Being shy is no excuse to miss out on life! Your whole life will pass you by if you do.” In less than five minutes we had her smiling and swinging those tennis balls with the rest of the group. If I succeeded in implanting one idea in her young mind, it was that being Fearless does not mean you are not afraid-it means you take a chance and do what you desire-regardless of fear or nerves. Every time she stepped out of her comfort zone, she was rewarded with a fun, new experience that prompted Joy and Excitement, not embarrassment and/or failure.
One of the highlights of Beltania is the Maypole, complete with the pomp and ceremony deserved of such an honored tradition. One of my favorite traditions associated with the Maypole is the Grand Entrance lead by the honorary Green Man and a group of men shouldering the pole, with the May Queen sidesaddle upon the pole. Once she is paraded around the grounds, the pole is anointed and planted into the hole in the ground. A nice big symbolic meeting of the Goddess and her Consort if ever there was one! Every year we are treated with Celtic music, played live as we dance and weave; which helps our feet dance on and on. It is always a challenge with so many people involved, but always fun. The wind was particularly strong in 2013 and we all had to use our Kung-Fu Grip in order to not lose our ribbon! One woman next to me commented that it was not unlike Deep Sea Fishing and fighting a huge Marlin on the other end of the ribbon.
One of my favorite aspects of coming to Beltania year after year is the increasing number of faces I recognize as I weave my ribbon around the Maypole. Every year I feel the community grow stronger as bonds are deepened and I am not lying when I say that Beltania has changed me for the better. I look forward to Beltania now as my once a year “Re-Charge”, a time when my body, mind and spirit are filled with Love, Positive Energy and renewed in my excitement of the coming summer and what I hope to create. Coworkers have noticed and commented on the difference in my…well, everything, after Beltania.
You may question why I am writing about the 2013 Beltania in January of 2014. I will tell you: because it is my mission to spread the word, to inform as many people as humanly possible that this Festival not only exists, but to excite as many people about this year’s Beltania Festival. In the past I have posted articles and reviews that Joy (one of the main organizers of Beltania) has enjoyed and this year she has asked me to step up and help her promote and market the festival! I am deeply honored, as this festival and Living Earth have done no less than bring me to my own potential.
If you have any questions about Beltania or Living Earth, please visit their websites or contact me directly! I hope to meet many friends, old and new, this year in Florence, Colorado. Please join us!
Location: Elizabeth, Colorado
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